NAMING THE SCRIPTURES
The terms "Old Testament" and "New Testament"
are traditionally used to refer to the two major parts of the
Bible. The "Old Testament" is taken to be that part
of the Bible which was written before the life of Jesus on the
earth. The "New Testament" is taken to be what was written
This usage of these terms is very old and well-established. From
the historical evidence that we have, it appears that "Irenaeus
was the first to apply the term N.T. [New Testament] to sacred
scriptures and that after his times the description of them as
the 'New Testament'...came into vogue." (W. C. van Unnik,
"E kaine diatheke - A Problem in the Early History of the
Canon," Studia Patristica, vol. 4, p. 214.)
It seems that Melito of Sardis is to be credited "for the
first use of the term Old Covenant or Old Testament to refer to
the Bible." (S. George, ed., Melito of Sardis, p. xxx.) Irenaeus
and Melito wrote between A.D. 160 and 190 - eighteen hundred years
ago, but more than a century removed from the events described
in the Gospels.
The traditional use of these terms, then, is quite old, but it
is still very incorrect. "Old Testament" and "New
Testament" actually refer to the two major covenants which
the Lord made with Israel - the "old" covenant of the
Law and the "new" covenant in the blood of Yeshua.
The proper Biblical terms are "Old Covenant" and "New
These covenants are particular agreements, not designations for
the two major parts of the Bible. For example, when Paul speaks
of the Old Covenant as having faded away, he is speaking of the
Covenant of the Law, not of the Scriptures themselves. (cf. 2
Co. 3) The Scriptures, and the Law of God which they contain,
are eternal. It is only the covenant that has faded away.
The traditional labeling leads to the erroneous belief that the
"Old Testament" was for the Jews, and the "New
Testament" is for the Church. It leads to the erroneous belief
that the "New Testament" is to be interpreted differently
than the "Old Testament." The traditional labeling also
leads to the erroneous belief that "the God of the Old Testament"
is a God of wrath, and "the God of the New Testament"
is a God of mercy. This error is compounded by ignoring both God's
love for Israel and God's promises of judgment in the Church,
and of wrath and judgment in the world. These are fundamental
errors. God is One. He and His purpose are unchanging. He presents
the gospel as the fulfillment of what He planned and promised
from the beginning. The plan, the promise, and the fulfillment
Yeshua referred to "the Law of Moses [Torah] and the Prophets
[Nevi'im] and the Psalms [Ketuvim]." (Lk. 24:44) The
acronym for these parts of the Bible is TaNaKh. In our discussion,
the term "Tanakh" will be used. Inasmuch as there
is no current acronym for the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, and
Revelation, the term "New Covenant Scriptures" will
be used to encompass them.